Did anyone reading this blog know that when you have an IV during childbirth, you are at increased risk for Uterine Apnea? What, you ask, is Uterine Apnea? I can tell you, because I had it with my first delivery.
Uterine Apnea is when a woman's uterus bleeds excessively after childbirth. In my case, the OB that delivered Andrew called for blood, but was able to stop the flow with the drug oxytocin. I have a friend who also had Uterine Apnea, and she had to have a blood transfusion because she lost so much blood. She told me that after she delivered her first child, the doctor and nurses were all very concerned, but no one really told her what was going on. All the medical personnel left her room for a couple of minutes, and she could hear a dripping sound. It was her blood dripping onto the floor. Very scary.
I didn't think much about my uterine apnea. I was induced for being borderline for hypertension, and so I had to have an IV with pitocin in it. The OB who delivered me made it seem as though the apnea was just a normal complication of childbirth that some women face. It scared Elliott enough that when I suggested delivering at home for our later children, he was (and is) against it, just in case.
A few weeks ago I had my semi-monthly check-up for this pregnancy. I drank a whole bottle of water on the way to the OB's office, because I wanted to be able to give a urine sample with ease. At the office, I was told they needed to do a further blood test to finish my labs, because they hadn't gotten enough blood the last time I was in. I gave the blood just fine, and went to check out at the front desk, only to look down at my arm and find it spurting blood out through the band-aid and everywhere. It was a mess. The nurse that helped me clean up commented to one of her co-workers that I was a "well-hydrated woman".
That got me thinking... If being well hydrated could cause me to have trouble stopping bleeding after a needle prick, what would an IV of fluids for several hours do to me. At my last check-up, I asked the doctor if he thought the IV could have caused my uterine apnea. He said definitely.
The question I ask is... Why hadn't I ever heard of this risk before? I have been to different types of child birth classes, and also read about the different types of pain management techniques available. Never once did any of these materials mention that if you have an IV, whether for pitocin or for an epidural, you are at increased risk of having uterine apnea. In fact, much of the literature I read about epidurals makes them sound like the safest drug in the world.
I definitely want women to have a good birth experience. If a woman thinks she can't handle the pain of labor, I don't necessarily have a problem with her getting an epidural, but I wish women were better informed about the side effects of what they choose to do medically.
My philosophy has always been, "You can always get more invasive, but you can never get less invasive." IMHO, it is better to go into labor thinking you will be as natural as possible, and if something happens that requires the woman to need the doctor to intervene, that is fine, but having the idea in one's head that there are no side-effects from pumping drugs of any kind into one's body is crazy. Not to mention that I have had several friends who thought they would show up at the hospital and get an epidural, only to be told that they were too far along, or the epidural didn't seem to do them any good. (You should hear their birth stories... They were very unprepared to deal with the pain of childbirth!)
Before Andrew was born, I decided I wanted to have an unmedicated childbirth. I tried to educate myself as to what types of pain management (both unmedicated, and medicated) were available, so that I would know if the decision had to be made, what would be right for me. I also tried to learn more about c-sections, in case that was warranted. I wish more women would educate themselves before labor, rather than relying on what their particular doctor's philosophy is.
Another example of unknown side-effects occurred after Emma was born. I was given Percocet to help with the pain of post-partum contractions after Emma was born. A little while after taking it, I began to be extremely groggy, and really thirsty. I really could barely keep my eyes open, and literally drank a whole pitcher full of water without having my thirst satisfied. I rang the bell to have the nurse bring me more water. Instead of my regular nurse, a different nurse answered the bell, and when I told her what was happening, she instantly accused me of not drinking enough, asked me where my IV was, and threatened to put me on an IV if I kept being dehydrated. I hadn't just gone through natural childbirth, with no IV, only to be told I was going to have one put in afterall.
"Hmmm," I thought to myself, "I guess I won't tell you when I am thirsty again!"
After a few hours, I began to feel better, but I was given more percocet to help with the contraction pain. About half an hour later, I started having the same grogginess and dehydration again. I am not a rocket scientist, but it didn't take much for me to figure out that I was actually having an adverse reaction to the percocet. I called for the nurse again (this time my regular and wonderful nurse came), and told her what was happening, and that I thought it was a side-effect. Sure enough, she confirmed that it was. I admit to being a little bit irritated that I had not been told ahead of time what the side-effects of percocet are. I realized then that I needed to be even more proactive in asking what the side effects are of anything ever done to or given to me or my family.
I guess the point of this blog is to say... Educate yourself before you have a medical procedure done. So many times there are routine procedures that we have heard about, and that doctors perform, and we forget that even routine procedures have side effects. It is important to know what is going on with your body, and to get accurate descriptions of what is happening, not only from your doctor, but also from other sources so you have a well rounded knowledge.
Okay, off my soapbox!